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What I do best

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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The short:  I do writing best.  Of all the things I have ever done and ever tried, writing feels the best and the most natural.  It is the thing that has always felt that way, no matter how much I tried to ignore it.

The long:  Ben and I were strolling along the beach the other day, as we often do, and we were discussing process.  Ben’s process of video editing is not all that dissimilar from my process of writing, yet we are both confounded by one another’s abilities.  Sometimes, I confess, I am also confounded by my own abilities.

My process, in theory, is simple.  I learn about the essence of a thing.  The story I need to tell, the language I need to use to tell it, the feelings and messages I need to get across.  I absorb everything I can around the piece, be it novel or website, event or video, then it rattles around in my brain.  This is the part that is most bewildering, the rattling.  I’m not actually sure what it does up there.  It swims and swirls amongst the grey matter and electrical impulses and chemical cascades. It does all this then comes out the other end as words.  Orderly, appropriate, well-dressed (sometimes beautiful)  sentences and paragraphs marching right from my brain onto the page. Simple right?  I guess.  I mean I feel it, I go through it and it happens, but I’m not entirely sure why or how.

The process itself and the outcome are shocking to Ben, just as his process and outcome shocks me.  We look at each other across the office and think ‘how does s/he do that?” so that fact alone makes me think it is something I do well, best even.

But all that’s pretty broad, pretty ethereal even.  Maybe a little woo woo?  Who’s really here to hear me say ‘it’s just a feeling dude…I just like…feel the words…”?

So let’s get specific:

I thrive at imagery and brevity.  Vivid imagery conjured in short, sweet ways that leave you with just enough to set the scene, but not so much that your imagination doesn’t have to do a little work.

I love the challenge of pairing information with beauty.  This shines through in my corporate work more than anywhere else.

I excel at unstructured wordplay.  I used to be a free spirit, I guess I still am a bit.  I love a basic story idea that I can run with and see where it takes me.  I love to be surprised by my characters and the choices they make.

I adore the craft of writing.  Fitting words together in the right way is like a puzzle that is completely rewarding to solve.  It just feels good.

So that’s me…what about you?

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Keep It Simple

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I’ve been doing a lot of reviewing lately on forums and in writing groups.  I feel like it really helps me focus on my own style to take apart other people’s stuff and look at the bits.

What I’ve noticed most of all (especially in fantasy and sci-fi) is that people complicate things too much.  Obscure words, five words when one would do, thick dialogue, overdone description, info dumps, metaphors that don’t match the world.  All of this stuff starts to stack until you have a book or a story that’s too full.

Take a deep breath writers and cut, cut cut.

If it feels confusing when you’re writing it, it will likely be ten times worse when someone goes to read it.  Keep that in mind before you go spilling the guts of the world all over the page.

Keeping it simple also involves knowing what parts of the story matter and what don’t.  I think writers fall in love with their characters and their worlds so much that they think people want to hear every last tiny detail that comes to mind.  We don’t.  We want to hear the details that matter, that are relevant to the story and keep the protagonist(s) charging forward or contain some sort of meaningful moment.

I learned a lesson about this today as I was writing a story that may or may not become a novel/la.  It’s a about a girl hitching to California from Toronto.  So I had her get a ride from some guy and they shared a moment by the lake.  Then the moment was over, it was over and gone but still I was tempted to stretch it out, make it last.  I was about to continue with them having lunch somewhere and my fingers were poised over the keyboard.  But instead, I looked at the chapter and said, ‘lunch doesn’t matter, it’s irrelevant and useless, the moment is done’ and I was liberated after that.  Set free by simplicity and brevity.

So look at your stories and novels writers and ask yourself if you are writing because it matters or if the moment is gone and now you’re just saying stuff because you want to hear yourself talk.

Although being complicated may be cathartic for you, if you don’t keep it simple, your readers will quickly move on.